Can we eat PepsiCo potato chips anymore?
Updated 14:17, 23-Jun-2020
Lay's potato chips. /VCG

Lay's potato chips. /VCG

Haunted by the confirmed COVID-19 cases at PepsiCo's factory in Beijing, customers have been left in limbo as to whether they can still purchase their beloved potato chips.

Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said there's no evidence showing PepsiCo's potato chips have been contaminated with the coronavirus.

"For dry foods like the chips, the virus can only last for a very short time under room temperature. Even if there's a chance for infection, the virus has lost its activity," Feng said during an interview with CCTV.

PepsiCo said all staff at its food factory in Beijing's Daxing District are home isolating after eight COVID-19 infections were reported at the factory on Saturday.

All products made after the infection was detected among the workers have been sealed, and production has been suspended, the company confirmed in a statement late Sunday.

The Daxing plant, one of seven food factories owned by PepsiCo in China, only produces small batches of canned potato chips, the company said, adding that its beverage lines are not affected by the virus, and no cases have been discovered at its bottling plants.

Read more: PepsiCo says all staff at its Beijing factory are home isolating

Can people eat outside now?

Feng stressed that the coronavirus is not transmitted via food, but can be brought to food via contaminated hands.

"When people touch surfaces contaminated with pathogens and rub their eyes, scratch their nose, and touch their mouths afterward, it's highly likely to contract the virus," he said.

Recently meat and poultry processing plants have been linked to several coronavirus outbreaks around the world.

Earlier this week, a meat processing plant in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany reported an outbreak of the novel coronavirus when 400 workers tested positive. By Friday, that number had doubled to 803, and the figure has now risen to 1,029, according to officials.

According to a CBS News report, an investigation found 14,000 confirmed coronavirus cases linked to 181 meat processing plants across the U.S., with at least 54 employees killed by the virus. A large poultry plant in Britain is also at the center of a significant COVID-19 cluster with more than 150 confirmed cases.

Referring to the incidents, Feng explained that the humid environment where meat is stored and processed is an ideal place for virus transmission. 

"The risk of getting infected increases when people working in close clusters at these plants," Feng said.

Read more: Has cold chain become the new hotbed for coronavirus?